Create differentiated products, generate experiences, carry out joint promotions, organise competitions and events with celebrity chefs: These are some of the new strategies that some of Spain’s main gastronomy destinations are implementing. Experts and managers from Madrid, Navarra, Aragon, the Canary Islands and Alicante explain their promotion strategies in detail.
“The competitiveness of a tourist destination is based on creating differentiated, high-quality products that deliver experiences and added value for tourists.” This is the view of Josep Bernabeu, Director of the Centre for Mediterranean Gastronomy at Alicante University-Dénia, and Director of the Carmencita Chair for the Study of Gastronomic Flavour at the University of Alicante, and Director of the Master’s Degree in Rice and Mediterranean Fine Food.
According to this expert, gastronomy tourism responds to the demands by a new type of tourist, those who aren’t just looking for services but want to be able to satisfy their expectations as consumers of experiences and emotions. “By serving a top-quality gastronomic experience, we can attract quality tourists, who can help overcome the seasonality of this business, and complement the other visitor segments.” In this way, “we can differentiate ourselves” and “create collaborative synergies with the productive sector.”
Among the many attractions that he cites, Bernabeu says that Alicante’s regions value their traditions, such as the land and the rice farming, which are representative of “tasty, healthy and sustainable local food, which also maintains the formal basis of traditional cuisine.” Another differentiating feature of this gastronomy is “the deep culture surrounding salted fish, a product with a long history in the region going back 2500 years.” We are also “famous for the variety of fish and seafood coming ashore and into our fish markets, with delicacies like red shrimp, which is the symbol of the town of Denia (a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy).”
Synergies in Madrid
Madrid is a world-class gastronomic centre, and last January was named Ibero-American Capital of Gastronomic Culture, taking over from Miami. And a survey by Madrid Destino in 2019 highlighted that 65% of domestic visitors consider that Madrid has the most varied provision in Spain. In the words of Almudena Maíllo, Tourism Manager at Madrid City Council, “all this is achieved by continuously promoting the sustainability of its cuisine and attracting sector-specialist tourism.”
The Madrid region offers designated origin wines, dishes such as cocido stew and stewed tripe (callos), century-old and Michelin-starred restaurants, taquerías, tapas bars, food markets, and engaging activities such as tapas tours, cooking courses and winery visits. “The key is to create synergies between all the actors in food tourism, promoting public-private collaboration to join forces in promoting, publicising what’s available through the different promotional channels (such as fairs, conferences, webinars), social media and newsletters.”
The Madrid Destino (Destination Madrid) campaign has produced several publications on gastronomy, in addition to other content published on the esmadrid.com website and blogs on different food-related themes. “We are also organising major events such as GastroFestival and Madrid Fusión. This year, Madrid will be the venue for publication of the 2021 edition of the Michelin Guide to Spain and Portugal and the Gala presentation, organised by the publisher, Michelin Travel Partner Spain Portugal, S.L.”
Surprises in Aragon
For Aragon, the critical factors for promoting food tourism are: “to innovate with actions that can attract and surprise the potential consumer; tourist experiences and long-term, diversified promotion; and to achieve interaction, in an original way” says Ana Azuara, Head of Tourism Promotion with the Aragon Regional Government. “We also have a good relationship with the Department of Agriculture, and we promote the Alimentos de Aragón (Food from Aragon) and other campaigns together; very much hand in hand with them.”
Azuara explains that one of the actions they have been carrying out in recent years is to bring people closer to gastronomy through promotional events. “We do Team Building events, with workshops that relate a fun activity around the region and the product. For example, the ‘Oenologist for a Day’ workshop, where professionals from the sector participate in making their own wine or in blind tastings.” Another initiative is “a competition to promote original, innovative and striking tourist experiences, to publicise the region and the experiences it offers.”
Trekking in Navarre
For Navarre, it is critical to promote itself as a tourist destination based on high-quality, local products, its ability to innovate using traditional ingredients, working together with local producers and denominations of origin, and creating experiences of immersion in local life through gastronomy. Maitena Ezkutari is General Manager for Tourism and Trade with the regional government. She explains that “this, together with the creativity of Navarre’s chefs, who have evolved a great deal in recent years, has produced an avant-garde cuisine, but with local roots, in which they blend flavours and experiences into an attractive, healthy and sustainable food tourism offering.”
Ezkutari says that gastronomy is a priority element in the Strategic Plan for Tourism in Navarre. “This is reflected in our very active social media campaigns, such as ‘Get to Know the Navarre Effect’, in which gastronomy and the foodie audience is a central element, backed up with proposals for rural, active and city-break tourism.
This is a region that “has developed an innovative concept for an event around gastronomy such as Catar Navarra (Taste Navarre). This event combines the producers’ experience with that of the hoteliers, with trekking, and understanding based on stories of living and feeling, and we ended up with a spectacular tasting. We are also participating in the European Gaturi project, with our Basque Country and Rioja neighbours and friends, to set up agro-tourism routes and make them known across Europe, based on a mapping of the quality products of each territory and the rural tourism services.”
Paz Fernández is Director of the Government of Navarre’s Tourism Marketing and Internationalisation Service. She explains that “we’ve detected a growing demand for experiences of all kinds, ones that can immerse you in the local gastronomy in a variety of ways, adapted for enjoyment by different audiences (food lovers, families, vegans, etc.)” At the same time, she points out that “these experiences are sometimes a simply an excuse to get closer to the local culture, to get to know the essence of the products at their origin, and to the work of our farmers. For example, visits guided by a shepherd in the Sierra de Aralar mountains. It is also very attractive to take part in the production processes, such as treading grapes at harvest time with your family, or cooking dishes with the mushrooms you have just picked with the help of an expert guide, which Navarre can offer.”
Digital Promotion in the Canary Islands
The Canary Islands has made gastronomy a cross-cutting feature of the messaging for its brand, says José Juan Lorenzo, Manager of Promotur Turismo Canarias. “This a highly competitive environment, in which all destinations are working to make gastronomy part of their product portfolio. The Canary Islands proposal is anchored in its gastronomy’s differentiating features, with a story closely linked to local production and unique features of the islands such as its volcanic origin, its exceptional temperate climate and the mix of cultures resulting from its history.”
The promotion of food tourism in the Canary Islands began with a very encouraging survey, as respondents gave a high approval rating for their gastronomic experience in the islands (8.46 out of 10), which confirmed the potential for this segment. Starting from that, Canary Islands Tourism has developed a specific publicity strategy to present the Canaries’ gastronomic offering as an unmissable and enriching part of the overall experience. “To achieve this, we have created personalised content, photographic and video productions, a specific web page and a complete action plan for international publicity using different media. The plan pays special attention to the online environment and social media, as well as physical participation in international gastronomic events.”
‘Honey Kisses, Bread And Cheese’ in Guadarrama
Madrid’s Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range also uses gastronomy as part of its tourism promotion, explains Javier de los Nietos, President of the management body Sicted and Adesgam. “Beyond providing basic resources and infrastructure, as tourist destinations, we will have to focus on the intangibles that connect with people’s emotions. This necessarily involves the people who are part of tourist destinations, but we also have to help visitors participate in this emotional connection with the area, and reinforce the complementary activities offering that is increasingly important.”
We can encourage this by, for example, designing and creating tourism products that value and connect with the region’s traditional activities, to achieve more authentic experiences. “One example is the project ‘Madrid’s Mountain Landscapes At the Table’, which began in 2017, which has helped create real gastro-tourism products. It’s based on a model with four pillars: love for the land, a quality product, the producer’s passion, and the chef’s know-how.” One of the experiences is “Honey Kisses, Bread and Cheese‘, marketed by the Sierra del Guadarrama Reservations Bureau. It allows you to try locally-produced food products in local restaurants and visit the producers.”